Sony Ericsson: pushing through the "greenwash"

Tim Renowden/Ovum
OvumLast week Sony Ericsson delivered an update on the progress of its sustainability program, which aims to reduce the company’s environmental impact. We met with Sony Ericsson’s Head of Corporate Sustainability, Mats Pellbäck Scharp, to discuss the handset vendor’s strategy and progress in implementing its corporate sustainability policy and its Greenheart handset range. Sony Ericsson has made a good start, but the real test will come as the Greenheart initiative is expanded across its portfolio.
 
Sony Ericsson’s ongoing sustainability roadmap is focused on ensuring basic product compliance, with guidelines around handset recycling; reduction in materials and toxic substances; and convincing suppliers of the benefits of Sony Ericsson’s corporate social responsibility approach. For a handset vendor, the greatest environmental impact comes from its products, making this the best place to address the problem. Greenheart-branded handsets are those that comply with Sony Ericsson’s own environmental policies.
 
Sony Ericsson claims that 5–10% of its 2010 handset production will be Greenheart handsets, but the big push will come in 2011 when a planned 80% of the company’s products will be Greenheart-compliant. The aim is to bring more suppliers into the program and drive its sustainability goals further into the company’s daily operations.
 
Sony Ericsson estimates that a Greenheart handset has a lifecycle carbon footprint that is roughly 15% lower than a comparable standard model, with other benefits flowing from reduced plastic and paper consumption, and use of less toxic materials. Some benefits are minimal in terms of carbon footprint, but have strong local benefits in and around factories (such as switching to water-based paints).
 
It’s natural to be cynical about corporate claims of greenness. “Greenwashing” is well known, and has been used and abused by everyone from mining companies to the automobile industry in a bid to attract the “green dollar”.
 

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